Ask the Herbalist: What Are the Benefits of Amla?
Q: I’ve been hearing a lot recently about an herb called amla. Does amla have any benefits besides its high vitamin C content?
A: As of late, amla seems to be making its presence known in almost any supplement in which vitamin Cis the main ingredient. This natural source of vitamin C may be the current herb à la mode in the West, however in the East, amla has a long history of use
The fleshy round fruit, seed, leaves, bark and flowers of Emblica officinalis, an herb commonly known as Indian gooseberry, amla or amalaki in Sanskrit, are used in Ayurvedic herbal medicine. Unlike Western medicine, Eastern medicine looks at how the energetics of plants chosen for medicinal use may affect the energetics of the person taking the herb. Energetics can be defined as the temperature and flavor of an herb in relation to a person’s base body type or constitution.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, there are three body types (known as doshas) which are called kapha, pitta and vatta. Amla is able to benefit all three doshas because it is comprised of the following flavors and temperatures:
- Astringent/drying (beneficial for kaphas)
- Sweet/cooling (beneficial for pitas)
- Sour (beneficial for vattas)
(You can learn more about Ayurvedic medicine and the three doshas here .)
Amla has become well known in the West due to its high vitamin C content, which may be because of the naturally high amount of ascorbic acid it contains and the tannins, which stabilize the ascorbic acid. Amla contains approximately 20 times more vitamin C than is found in oranges. It is often added to vitamin C supplements or may be used as the main source of vitamin C in a supplement (as is the case with Stop Aging Now’s Vitamin C Complex) because of its highly absorbable vitamin C content. Amla also contains a host of other nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals and amino acids.
The benefits of amla are plentiful. According to Ayurvedic medicine, when used as food or medicine, amla may promote longevity, purify the blood and enhance digestion. It has also been used traditionally to strengthen the heart, support eye health and enhance intellect. In modern medicine, amla is showing promise as an expectorant, antioxidant, reliever of constipation and anti-inflammatory agent. If you are able to obtain the dry fruit, consuming it may help in cases of hemorrhage and diarrhea.
Amla has also found its way into beauty products such as shampoos and hair oils based on the traditional belief that it can help nourish the hair and scalp. Amla is also used topically to help reduce hair loss and prevent premature graying. Amla’s hair, skin and nail benefits are likely due to its vitamin C content. Vitamin C is needed to form healthy collagen, a fibrous protein that connects bodily tissues, and healthy collagen is needed for healthy skin, hair and cell growth.
The amazingly bountiful benefits of amla can be conveniently obtained in capsule form, by eating the fresh or dried fruit or by using amla oil and other beauty products that contain amla. Consider using amla in several different forms and watch how wonderfully this herb works for you!
Hair Loss Treatment (Recipe from naturallycurly.com)
- Boil about 3 oz. (100 g) of grated Indian gooseberry fruit in 8.5 oz. (250 ml) of water.
- Blend the grated fruit in the water to make a paste of smooth constituency.
- Apply this paste on the scalp and let it remain for an hour before washing it off with warm water.
Amla. Retrieved from http://www.himalayahealthcare.com/herbfinder/h_embelo.htm on 6/4/10
Amla – Medicinal Food & Source of High Quality, Naturally Occurring Vitamin C. Retrieved from http://www.organicconsumers.org/nutricon/materials/Amla.pdf on 6/1/10
Amla: The Ultimate Wellness Fruit. Retrieved from http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curl-products/amla-the-ultimate-wellness-fruit on 6/4/10 on 6/4/10
Phyllanthus emblica. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_gooseberry on 6/4/10
Lissa’s passion for educating people about the healing powers of herbs led her to obtain a Masters of Science in Herbal Medicine from the Tai Sophia School of the Healing Arts. She has also studied nutrition and women’s health extensively, and has trained as a doula.
Have a question for Lissa? Send her an email and she’ll get back to you!